British government health officials are urging doctors to dissuade Caesarean birth if they do not need one.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence say doctors should allow a woman to choose how she gives birth. They also say that women must be informed of the risks and benefits of different ways of having a baby.
Statistics suggest around 1.5% of all births in England and Wales involve Caesarean sections that have been carried out for "non-medical" reasons.
Current trends which have been encouraged by actresses and pop stars, including Victoria Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley, have made Caesarean births popular.
A national audit showed that in 2001, 21.5% of babies in England and Wales were born by Caesarean. The World Health Organisation says that Caesareans are only appropriate in between 10% and 15% of births.
The operation, considered major surgery, is routinely used for medical reasons, such as the baby being in the breech position or where labour has progressed too slowly.
Medical experts have warned that Caesarean sections carry a variety of risks, including blood clots, bladder injury, the need for further surgery in women - and can lead to greater breathing problems for the baby.
New guidelines issued on the 28 April 2004 to the NHS in England and Wales set out the best care for women and babies on caesarean section.
The guidelines, published by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in conjunction with the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, cover the information and support that should be offered to women making decisions about whether to have a caesarean section, including consent for caesarean sections, reasons for needing a caesarean section, and the care that should be offered during and after the operation.